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Blackboard – Teaching (Banner) Course Retention Policy

The University’s Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) service is hosted in the cloud by Blackboard directly. When a service is hosted in the cloud, it means that we pay for a predefined amount of data storage for all of our content. As our use of Blackboard continues, the amount of content keeps increasing, which means that our overall storage keeps increasing and we approach the arrange storage limit.

The retention policy reduces clutter in blackboard making it easier to navigate and reduce the amount of storage needed for the Universities Blackboard service. In turn it will help keep maintenance costs down, whilst allowing future room for storage capacity should usage of Blackboard continue to increase. 

Data retention policy

The Blackboard data retention policy applies to all individually Banner created courses/modules (e.g. BIOL1001-10362-04-05) and all data/content that is stored on them. Included in this data is all Blackboard tests and assignments, including Turnitin assignments. However for Turnitin, students’ work will be kept in the central Turnitin plagiarism repository as normal.  

It should be the case that Blackboard courses should be kept for no more than five years if there are no active students on them, and so long as there is no specific teaching requirement to keep the course. Any course that fails to meet the specified criterion will have its user access disabled, then after a set amount of time it will be deleted from Blackboard along with any stored course backups. 

A nonactive student is defined as a student who no longer has an active account or has an account moved to alumni status. Students with disabled/suspended accounts will still be counted as being active on the course, meaning the course would not meet the criteria for being disabled then deleted. 

Therefore, a course will be considered for being disabled if it meets the following criteria:  

  • The course is over 5 years old.  
  • The course has been created by Banner. 
  • The course has no active students.  
  • No academic has said it should be kept. 
 Active students No active students 
Banner course newer than 5 years old Keep Keep 
Banner course older than 5 years old Keep Delete 
Arbitrary course Keep Keep 

Part of the policy allows module leaders the right to exempt the course from the data retention policy for a full academic year. After a set period if no action has been taken by module leaders, it will then roll onto the course instructors the option to exempt a course. This allows course owners to reorganise content elsewhere should they still need it. Once the academic year has passed the course would then be again subject to the data retention policy. 

This policy is applied only to Banner provisioned Blackboard courses. This policy does not cover arbitrary Blackboard courses (those provisioned by ServiceLine request rather than from Banner). In future we may update this policy to include arbitrary Blackboard courses as well. But we have no plans to do this at present. 

Policy implementation

The retention policy is enacted by an automated service to retire identified courses. Before proceeding, a Blackboard system report should be created to identify how many courses will be subject to the data retention policy. The report data is then used to inform faculty staff of the proposed changes and negotiate a sensible date for automatic file deletion to always take place on.  

An automated service first checks courses against the retention criteria and make a list. It then sends an email to the module leaders of the course informing them of the upcoming deletion of a Blackboard course, at a pre-determined date. The email will also allow staff to exempt a course from being deleted for another year, should they deem it necessary to keep it.  

After a 90 day period for module leaders to decide upon what to do with the courses, the system will then go on to email the course instructors of any courses that were not previously selected as being kept by the module leaders. The course instructors will then be given an opportunity to keep any courses as well. 

Should neither any module leaders nor course instructors wish to keep a course, the service will automatically disable the course after 28 days. The course will be kept in a disabled state for 365 days, in this state it would be possible to request the course is reactivated again. However, if not after the end of the 365 day disablement period, the course and all its related data will be deleted. It is suggested for the initial rollout of this policy the wait for deletion period might be reduced to 90 days from 365 days. 


This policy was written by Patrick McSweeny and Louis Pliskin (Education Application Support, iSolutions) on 06/05/2021.

This policy approved in 2021 by Legal Services, the Blackboard Business Owner, Deputy Heads of School and Student Services.


If you would like to provide any feedback on the proposed policy, then you can do so on the following MS Form.

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